ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Arcade in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

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The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

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If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl Without Skin – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: The Girl Without Skin
(Greenland #1)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 27th 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: December 29th 2018
Pages: 352
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Pigen uden hud’)

“If you want to understand why a ball is rolling, you need to find out what set it in motion. The rest is nothing but effect, and the effect is visible to everyone.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Text Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to read more Nordic crime, so when I saw this title popping up I just couldn’t resist. That cover does look kind of daunting, doesn’t it? I went in The Girl Without Skin full of expectations and they were more than met. The first thing that stood out for me was the setting. It shows that the author knows Nuuk and Greenland from his own experience living there, because he is able to describe it in a way that makes it truly come alive. I also like that the main character Matthew is a Danish ‘outsider’ like the author himself. Being able to see both Nuuk and Greenland through his eyes was truly insightful, and I feel like I’ve learned a bit about the life there as well as having read a solid crime thriller. Because solid it was. Bloodcurdling, twisted, disturbing and bodies piling up as you turn the pages… Oh yes, The Girl Without Skin isn’t for those who don’t like to see their crime thrillers bloody. But if you, like me, don’t mind things getting messy, you will have a great time with this little shocking story. I really liked the writing style, which was engaging and made me keep reading until I suddenly reached the last page. The pace is good and I liked how the plot was constructed, which 1973 flashbacks as well as the current (2014) storyline. It was interesting to see how the author slowly tried to link both point of views and there is one thing for sure: The Girl Without Skin will have some shocking surprises for you in store!

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Journalist Matthew Cave is called in to investigate the body of what is suspected to be a mummified Viking discovered out on the edge of an ice sheet. He is eager to cover the story, knowing that this discovery might just be his big break… But the next day the body is gone, and all evidence with it, leaving only the mutilated body of the policeman who was keeping watch. Gutted and flayed, his death resembles the victims of a chain of murders back in the 1970s, crimes that were never solved. Are the two crimes linked? Matthew might be in more danger than he realizes as he tries to investigate.

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I was without doubt more than pleasantly surprised by The Girl Without Skin. I like my crime thrillers dark and disturbing, and an interesting international setting is always a bonus for me. This story isn’t for those with a weak stomach, as there are a lot of graphic scenes involved including violence, bloodcurdling murder scenes and abuse. The Greenland setting is excellently executed and it felt like I were there myself along with the main characters… The story itself chilled me to the bone. If you like dark crime thrillers, you should definitely give this one a go!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #68 – The Couple Next Door & Vengeful

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two titles I ended up really enjoying. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 14th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 11th 2018
Pages: 352

“Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they’re not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit.”


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I have been meaning to read this domestic thriller debut for quite some time now. I know there have been a lot of mixed reviews about this one, and I definitely think I have benefitted from waiting until the hype died down. I ended up enjoying The Couple Next Door way better than I thought I would. There are some things to be said about the writing style, which I wasn’t always are sure about, but overall I managed to keep turning those pages fast enough. This has a lot to do with the pace and both the mystery around Anne’s past and other secrets in play… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of it all and some aspects and plot twists seemed a bit too absurd to be believable. But there is also no doubt that The Couple Next Door was still a very entertaining ride and I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. The ending was definitely unexpected! It kind of made me wish there were more pages to see how things would develop after that bombshell. I’ll be looking forward to read more of her work in the future…


Title: Vengeful
(Villains #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Finished reading: December 14th 2018
Pages: 592

“Some people were matches, a bit of light and no heat. And some were furnaces, all heat but little light. And then, once in a blue moon, there was a bonfire, something so hot and bright you couldn’t stand too near without burning.”


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I enjoyed reading Vicious, so of course I was excited about Vengeful ever since I first found out there was going to be a sequel. I was going to do a reread of the first book first, but with so many other titles pending I decided to dive straight in and see if I could pick up the thread. And as soon as I started, I just couldn’t make myself stop… V.E. Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors, and Vengeful is without doubt a brilliant sequel. It’s been too long to properly compare it with the first book, but what I do know is that I loved every single minute of my time with book two. While the plot is actually quite simple, it is both the writing style and character development that blow you away. There is a reason she is one of my favorite authors, because her writing is of such a high quality that you just cannot help but fall in love with it. The same goes for the characters… We have a lot of old favorites, and a few new introductions as well that will leave a very strong mark. Marcella and June, I’m looking at you! The whole superpower/villain angle works fascinatingly well and while maybe not that original, the incorporation of those elements is done in such a way that you will have no choice but enjoy the ride. Vengeful will take a well-deserved place on my shelf of favorites, and I will already be looking forward to reread both Villains books together in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: My Life In A Cat House – by Gwen Cooper

Title: My Life In A Cat House
Author: Gwen Cooper
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Animals
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: BenBella Books
Finished reading: December 9th 2018
Pages: 270

“And they remind us that, no matter how complicated our lives, or how complex our relationships, or how sophisticated our desires and goals may become with the passage of years, those simple pleasures are still the ones most worth having.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and BenBella Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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I am what some people call a proper ‘crazy catlady’ and I’ve been in love with these feline creatures ever since I was tiny. A bout of fur allergy prevented me from coming close to them between the age of three and twelve (more or less)… But as my allergies mysteriously disappeared after that, I was able to admire them more closely again. I’ve owned cats during most of my life since, except for a few years when I was traveling. So I definitely know what Gwen Cooper is talking about that every cat is unique and cat owners can create an unique bond with their feline friends. I knew I wanted to read My Life In A Cat House as soon as I saw the gorgeous cat on the cover. A memoir written by a fellow cat admirer? Yes please! I admit I hadn’t heard of Gwen Cooper before I started this memoir, but this hasn’t prevented me from highly enjoying her different ‘tails’ about her five cats. We get to know each of them through memories and anecdotes about why each cat is unique in its own way. Funny and heartwarming moments are mixed with a few heartbreaking ones… But the stories stay mostly on the humorous side. Cat owners will be able to relate to the different ‘problems’ Gwen Cooper has had to face while living with her pets as well as the happy moments and the benefits of being lucky enough to share your life with one or more cats. It also shows the importance of rescue centers and adoption (all of our pets were actually rescued from the streets); it is so much more fulfilling being able to give an animal a home after it having such a rough start in life… My Life In A Cat House will make a great gift for any cat owner or cat lover in general.


And what is this review without a few pictures of my own feline friends?! Jasmine and Delilah Bard say hello.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #67 – Blue Blood & Girl With A Pearl Earring

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two older releases and two completely different genres. The first a detective thriller sequel of a Danish author: Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel. The second a historical fiction modern classic set in 1660s Delft: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Both were solid reads though.


Title: Blue Blood
(Louise Rick #2)
Author: Sara Blaedel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2005
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: November 29th 2018
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Kald Mig Prinsesse’)


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I always have a weak spot for detective thrillers, and I just couldn’t resist buying a copy of Blue Blood when I first saw it. I didn’t realize it was actually the second book of a series at the time, but thankfully the story can be read as a stand-alone as well. This translation from a Danish crime writer (also called Call Me Princess in some translations) was without doubt an entertaining ride. The writing style was easy to like, and I just loved the setting in Denmark. I was drawn to the story and plot straight away, and found myself literally flying through the pages… Trigger warnings are in place for rape and violence, but the subject is really well handled and reading more about the dangers of online dating is definitely intriguing. The main characters Louise Rick was quite easy to connect to, and I didn’t feel I was missing too much background information by not reading the first book (I’m not saying I don’t want to now though). I could have done without the cheating/romance subplot, but thankfully the main focus was on the case itself. I liked how things developed and even though I had some ideas about how things would end, Blue Blood also had some surprises in store. Fast, entertaining and just the right amount of suspense… I will definitely be reading more of Sara Blaedel‘s books.


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2018
Pages: 233

“He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”


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I’ve been meaning to read this modern classic for ages, and the When Are You Reading? challenge turned out to be a perfect excuse to do so. I’ve seen the painting of the story with my own eyes quite some years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to read about the story behind it. Girl With A Pearl Earring turned out to be a very interesting story set in the 1660s in a Dutch city called Delft. The description of both the setting and era is very well done, and I like how the author stayed true to the Dutch names. The writing was solid and made it easy to follow Griet’s story as things develop. The fact that Griet’s father is a tile painter is interesting, as Delft is famous for its blue and white decorations… And Vermeer is a very famous painter of course as well. I liked reading about her experience as a maid in the house of a famous author. The dynamics of a girl without experience being thrown into a new job and a family not sure how to react to Griet were interesting. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way though. The first is the love triangle, which partly ruined the story for me. Is this seriously necessary?! I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without the appearance of that trope. I also wasn’t sure about the interactions between Griet and some of the Vermeer family members… I still think it was a solid read and I enjoyed reading it for the most part though.


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ARC REVIEW: Her Final Confession – by Lisa Regan

Title: Her Final Confession
(Detective Josie Quinn #4)
Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 28th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: November 11th 2018
Pages: 306

“Sometimes people get it wrong. Even when there is no good reason. Even when it’s the very last thing you’d expect them to do.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy publication day !!

I always have a weak spot for a good detective thriller series, and Detective Josie Quinn has quickly grown into one of my favorites. I have been enjoying spending time with his main character in the fictional city of Denton, and book number four is without doubt another great addition to the series. If you like your detective thrillers fast, intense and basically similar to crazy rollercoaster rides, you definitely have to try this series. What a ride! I wasn’t sure what else could be happening after all Denton and its habitants have already gone through, but Lisa Regan has another surprise in store and the plot intensifies. One of the reasons the series works this well is that the main characters are easy to like and connect to. Between this, the writing style and a gripping plot you will definitely want to free some of your time when you start reading Her Final Confession. Did I think some aspects of the plot were a bit too farfetched and not everything was credible? Without doubt. Does this take away from the overall credibility of the story and made me raise my eyebrows at points? Maybe. But the fact is: Her Final Confession is still one heck of an entertaining and intense ride and the story had me at serial killer. (Ok, technically long before that.) It was fascinating to find out more about both Gretchen’s past and learn more about Josie… Even though some plot twists and facts were a bit too convenient and farfetched. This is the only minor flaw of what has been an excellent detective thriller series so far, and I’m already looking forward to the next installment.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first three books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

When the body of a young student is found on the driveway of Gretchen Palmer, a valuable member of Detective Josie Quinn’s team, Josie is sure Gretchen is innocent. But with Gretchen missing and no real clue as to what happened, Josie is forced to treat her as a suspect anyway. Even when Gretchen finally shows up and even confesses to the crime, Josie doesn’t believe she has killed the boy. And Josie is determined to find out the identity of the real killer instead. This means digging into Gretchen’s past, something that turns out to be more dangerous than they thought…

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I have consistently enjoyed the books of this detective thriller series so far and book number four is no different. Her Final Confession is fast, suspenseful and filled with plot twists and shocking surprises. Intense is an understatement! While not everything about the plot and twists is exactly credible, it’s still quite easy to forget about the credibility and enjoy the ride anyway. The writing style and the characters have a lot to do with this! Entertaining, intense and full of suspense: Her Final Confession is without doubt another excellent addition!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #63 – Girl, Wash Your Face & All Your Perfects

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres and two completely opposite reactions… The part memoir, part self help book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis only managed to frustrate me, while contemporary romance All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover hits most of the marks.


Title: Girl, Wash Your Face
Author: Rachel Hollis

Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help, Memoir
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: November 10th 2018
Pages: 241

“If you constantly make and break promises to yourself, you’re not making promises at all. You’re talking.”


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Fact: I hadn’t heard of the author before when I decided to add Girl, Wash Your Face to my TBR. Fact: I didn’t check out the existing reviews properly before getting a copy, or else I would probably have never considered reading it. This part memoir, part self help book seems to be having two extreme and opposite reactions depending on if you have a similar mindset and background to Rachel Hollis. If you loved it and her advice helped you in any way, that’s great. It shows that we are all different and work in different ways, which is the beauty of life. BUT. It also means I’m by no means entitled to ignore my feelings of pure frustration either. Oh yes, this is going to be rant, so don’t say I haven’t warned you. I was hoping to find something interesting and inspirational in Girl, Wash Your Face, especially after hearing others swear by it. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Let’s see why, shall we? First of all, the preaching. Yes, religion plays quite a big role here and both the Scripture and God are used numerous times to supposedly get you back on track. This whole preaching is a big no no for me and a huge turn off. I respect religions, but forcing your religion on others is infuriating. That said, the tone she uses in Girl, Wash Your Face is belittling and doesn’t respect others who don’t fit her idea of ‘successful in their lives’. It’s easy to talk about problems from the privileged background she has, saying it’s up to you to improve your future and achieve your goals, when there is more than enough money in the bank and health as well. Trust me, not everyone has it that easy and it just feels as if she is discriminating everyone who doesn’t have it as easy as her. ‘Get your act together!’ feels more like a mother scolding a child without respecting individual struggles and differences, and seriously left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And then there’s the whole chapter about weight. No no no NO! As someone who has struggled with her weight her whole life, this is just seriously offensive. I should just drink water and stop use food as comfort? Excuse me, because there are a zillion reasons for a person to struggle with their weight, and just exercise and other simplistic tips aren’t going to cut the deal. Who is she to give advice in the first place?! Also, her whole idea of being happy means you have to be thin, successful and other warped ideas is offensive. And I can’t get over the fact just how full of herself she is, talking about how successful she is all the time, all she has achieved and how wonderful her life is. Yuck. Ah, and don’t even make me start about the whole chapter about the first year she dated her now husband, how he treated her like dirt and then glossed over it saying: ‘but he’s wonderful now!’. Basically saying it’s ok for someone to psychologically abuse you and who knows, they might change later? Not cool. I could keep on rambling for a long time, but I hate being this negative so I’ll leave it here. As you might have guessed already, Girl, Wash Your Face wasn’t exactly a positive experience for me.


Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 17th 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 10th 2018
Pages: 320

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”


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I always seem to be having a love-hate relationship with CoHo’s books and it’s always a surprise how I will react to her books. I was hoping All Your Perfects was going to keep up my recent positive streak, and I guess I got lucky. There is a lot to love in this newest novel, and part of me wanted to give it an even higher rating. BUT. I just couldn’t ignore the frustration I felt with everything related to the cheating (SPOILER: especially since he gets to be painted as some sort of hero and apparently it was her own fault he did it in the first place.) Justifying cheating is NOT ok, and I was seriously disappointed to see the story go that way. That said, there is no doubt Colleen Hoover is a star in creating flawed and realistic characters that will have to go through a lot before they reach the final page. The story is divided in Then and Now chapters, and I have to say I enjoyed the chapters in the past considerably better. This has a lot to do with Quinn. I get that she goes through a lot and is suffering from depression, but her constant complaining did get a bit too much for me. The ending was a bit too abrupt for me as well, as the change was a bit too drastic for me to be completely believable. I still think All Your Perfects was mostly a great read though and once again she has managed to make me enjoy a genre I normally tend to stay away from. And that is something not to take lightly.


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